updated 10/24/2008 11:39:18 AM ET 2008-10-24T15:39:18

COUNTDOWN

October 22, 2008

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT.

THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

Guests: Chris Cillizza, Richard Clarke

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

Obama, and spreading the wealth, and socialism. Governor Palin says he's not one, but he believes in socialist things. As usual, Senator Obama points out-Senator McCain has just stepped on his own rake.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D-IL) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Now, was John McCain a socialist back in 2000 when he opposed the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: McCain has bigger problems, not one but two "Bob Dole" moments-moon over my candidate in Moon Township, Pennsylvania.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R-AZ) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think that you may have noticed that Senator Obama supporters have been saying some pretty nasty things about Western Pennsylvania lately.

(CROWD BOOING)

MCCAIN: And you know, I couldn't agree with them more.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: Just disagree. You don't agree with them.

And the other "Bob Dole" moment this morning in New Hampshire, on live

TV.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: Rates were cuts in the Clinton years, revenue went up. Rates were (BLEEP) cut in the Bush years, revenue went up.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: This will really make him want to swear. An al Qaeda Web site reveals support for McCain. If that was Obama, you would have been able to hear the screams of "fixed news" coming through your wall. Richard Clarke on the unwanted endorsement for the GOP.

And in this latest unwanted interview: Governor Palin with Senator McCain and Brian Williams.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. SARAH PALIN, ® VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Let's not forget, also, in this context of one endorsement, Colin Powell's-that you received endorsement of, at least, four more secretaries of state and hundreds.

MCCAIN: Five or six.

PALIN: Five.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: Bests: Billo celebrated his new contract today until the ratings came out. We beat him by 20 percent.

Worsts: Michele Bachmann blames Chris, but the national Republicans slime her and reportedly cut off her advertising budget.

Speaking of budgets, there's $18,000 a week to play Colorforms with the vice presidential nominee. Kind of a tough development when you're painting the other candidate as the elitist, as the Paris Hilton, as the hypocrite. Tonight: Another Campaign Comment.

All that and more: Now on COUNTDOWN.

(on camera): Good evening. This is Wednesday, October 22nd, 13 days until the 2008 presidential election.

Nothing could say disconnect faster. You're trying to pin your opponent with the phrase, "share the wealth" while your campaign gets pinned for having shared $150,000 wealth with two of the ritziest clothing companies to dress up your running mate. It's almost inevitable that you would wind up telling a Western Pennsylvania audience what terrible things are being said about them and how you could not agree more.

In our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN: John McCain now trying to survive the story of the empress' new clothes. In a new TV ad, Senator McCain quotes an apparent nation of "Joe the Plumbers," Spartacus-style, lamenting the Dickensian unfairness of the undoing Bush tax cut on individuals making more than $250,000.

Speaking in New Hampshire this morning, McCain suggested that Obama's exchange with Joe Wurzelbacher was, (A), hostile, and (B), a revelation of Obama's socialism.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: As it happened, the Obama tax increase is just what Joe had on his mind. So, Joe showed the Obama traveling press how to ask a tough question. And get an answer instead of just another talking point. Thanks to him, we finally learned what Senator Obama's economic goal is. As he told Joe, Barack Obama wants to, quote, "spread the wealth around."

(CROWD BOOING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: That booing apparently from McCain supporters who all make more than $250,000 a year, or don't realize that any tax moves wealth around, or that the only difference there between Obama and McCain is who gets how much of it in the form of tax cuts.

At a news conference today, Obama suggests that people should actually watch his exchange with Mr. Wurzelbacher, and then try to explain his plans so that even poor McCain supporters who don't want tax cuts could understand.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: What we are talking about is-on those folks making more than $250,000 a year, going back to the tax rates that existed under George W. Bush or that-excuse me, going back to the tax rates that existed under Bill Clinton.

And the irony is, is that when George Bush proposed the original tax cuts that lowered tax rates for the wealthiest Americans, who objected? John McCain. Who said these were irresponsible and said that they would prevent middle class tax relief? That they weren't properly targeted?

Now, was John McCain a socialist back in 2000 when he opposed the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans? Because all I'm trying to do is reverse those so we can give relief to people who really need help. It's not a very plausible argument that he's making right now. And, I think it's an indication that they have run out of ideas, OK?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: But, if McCain '08 finds himself at odds with McCain 2000, he may have a bigger rivalry to worry about, the conflict between "McCain '08 the message" and "McCain '08 the messenger." Witness, for instance, Senator McCain's pushback last night against Congressman Jack Murtha's recent recanted criticism of pockets of Western Pennsylvania as racist.

Here's how Senator McCain began.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: I think you may have noticed that Senator Barack Obama supporters have been saying some pretty nasty things about Western Pennsylvania lately.

(CROWD BOOING)

MCCAIN: And, you know, I couldn't agree with them more.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: Understandably, he tried again.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: And you know, I couldn't agree with him more. I couldn't disagree with you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: No, you really need to see it all at once and pay attention to the end when Senator McCain tries to recover by insulting every part of the country that is not Western Pennsylvania as being less patriotic and less God-loving than Western Pennsylvania.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: I think you may have notice that Senator Obama supporters have been saying some pretty nasty things about Western Pennsylvania lately.

(CROWD BOOING)

MCCAIN: And you know, I couldn't agree with them more. I couldn't disagree with you. I couldn't agree with you more than the fact that Western Pennsylvania is the most patriotic, most God-loving, most patriotic part of America.

(APPLAUSE AND CHEERS)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: It's late in the wearying campaign.

Let's move to Chris Cillizza, who writes "The Fix" for WashingtonPost.com.

Good evening, Chris.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, WASHINGTONPOST.COM: Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN: All right. Let's start in the "holy land" in Western Pennsylvania. That slip, he couldn't agree with Murtha more and the desperate attempt to make up what he was trying to say. Are seeing signs of fatigue there? Is it panic? Is it Freudian slips? What is it?

CILLIZZA: Well, it's either his "Sister Soulja" moments against Western Pennsylvania, or he's tired. And, look, I do think it's fatigue more than anything else, Keith. These guys have been going pretty much nonstop. I try to always sort of think of the better angels in politicians.

We've had in the last week, we've had Michele Bachmann's comments to Chris Matthews. We've had Robin Hayes's comments in North Carolina, warming up a crowd in a Republican rally. And we've had Jack Murtha's comments.

I'd like to think that's because we are toward the end here. These politicians are tired. They're under a lot of pressure and they tend to make a slip or two. I also, I use it as an insurance policy on myself, Keith, not to bash them too much in case I say something at some point.

OLBERMANN: You are more generous than I, sir.

(LAUGHTER)

OLBERMANN: The attempt-the policy question here that's getting lost somewhat on the noise but is being hit very hard, obviously, by the McCain campaign-to sell Obama's opposition to renewing the same Bush tax cuts that McCain himself had opposed as Obama is therefore a socialists. How did the McCain campaign get to this rather, even for them, odd balancing act?

CILLIZZA: Well, you know, Keith, this is the problem of running as a senator, to be totally honest, especially a senator with a long record. John McCain in the aftermath of the 2000 campaign, was clearly not thrilled with George Bush, was not in the mood to sort of go along and get along, voted against those tax cuts.

Well, fast forward, he's running for president. He knows he's got to get right with the fiscal conservative base of the party. He votes to extend them. Again, it gets-it's the problem of being a politician for a long time and voting on a lot of things.

The McCain campaign, at this point, they understand that things are slipping away. They look at the same polls that everybody else does, both in the states and nationally. They understand that they are being outspent three or four to one, Keith. And I think they're just trying to find a line of attack that works and they're still not there yet.

OLBERMANN: Chris, I'm going to go into depth later about this Politico story and the $150,000 spent on dressing up the governor. But, contextualize it for me in the meaning of this race. How much did this add to the burdens of John McCain right now, especially the burden of trying to depict Obama as the dangerous wealth spreader, the enemy of the economy and the average guy?

CILLIZZA: Perception matters so much in politics, Keith, from, you know, I say it's a bipartisan thing. Look at back at John Edwards during the primary. He paid $400 for a haircut. Everyone said, well, how can he be the voice, the populist voice, the voice for the average working man and spend that much money?

This is the same kind of problem. It looks bad. The average hockey mom, the average sort of American middle class family does not spend $150,000 on wardrobe and make up. They simply don't. It's a P.R. mistake, at the least, on the part of the Obama-excuse me, the McCain/Palin campaign.

And that's not the kind of thing-we're talking about a very high level here. This is the presidential campaign. You don't expect to see an error of that magnitude that could, frankly, have been easily handled some other way.

OLBERMANN: Yes. It also makes that $400 haircut look like a bargain.

Lastly, we got a good chunk of the Joe the Plumber exchange with Obama on deck right now. But explain why-why is McCain still harping on this and has been to the point where you, you know, dogs are starting to bark when they hear a phrase "Joe the Plumber" when all polling suggest it hasn't got him significant traction?

CILLIZZA: Who would have thought Joe the Plumber would have been the phrase in the drinking game and the third debate that would have got you drunk. I was going with my friends. But, they think that the McCain campaign believes that it, in effect, has gotten them traction.

Now, they cite internal polls of their own that show that white men, both college educated and non-college educated had bounced back with this economic attack using Joe the Plumber as a way to get into it. Again, McCain has to find a way to become empathetic with your average working family, average working voter, on the economy. They think Joe the Plumber is it.

It's clearly not the silver bullet, Keith, there's no question about that. But remember, he is really struggling in there, 13 days left, the clock is ticking.

OLBERMANN: Chris Cillizza, writer of "The Fix" at WashingtonPost.com always a pleasure, sir. Thank you for your time tonight.

CILLIZZA: Thanks for having me, Keith.

OLBERMANN: As we mentioned, in Obama's news conference today, he refuted the implication that his exchange with the famous Mr. Wurzelbacher was, in any way, antagonistic, suggesting that people go back and look at the original tape. We did.

For one thing, it does flatly disprove the McCain implication that Obama, in any way, foisted himself upon Joe Wurzelbacher. It was Mr. Wurzelbacher who made his way to the crowd around Obama, through them, and then shouted out a question to which Senator Obama responded.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, OCT.11)

OBAMA: What's your name?

JOE WURZELBACHER, JOE THE PLUMBER: My name is Joe Wurzelbacher.

OBAMA: Good to see you, Joe.

WURZELBACHER: I'm getting ready to buy a company that makes $250,000, $270,000, $280,000 a year.

OBAMA: All right.

WURZELBACHER: Your new tax plan's going to tax me more, isn't it?

OBAMA: Well, here's what's going to happen. If you're a small business which you would qualify, first of all, you'd get a 50 percent tax credit. So, you get a cut on taxes for your healthcare costs. So you would actually get a tax cut on that front. If your revenue is above $250,000, then from the $250,000 down, your taxes are going to stay the same.

It is true that for-say, from $250,000 up, from $250,000 to $300,000 or so.

WURZELBACHER: Well, here's my question.

OBAMA: I just want to answer your question. So, for that additional amount, you'd go from 36 percent to 39 percent, which is what it was under Bill Clinton.

WURZELBACHER: I'm a plumber, you know, I work, you know, 10 to 12 hours a day.

OBAMA: Absolutely.

WURZELBACHER: And I'm, you know, buying this company, I'm going to continue to work that way. Now, if I buy another truck and add something else to it and, you know, build the company.

OBAMA: Right.

WURZELBACHER: . you know, I'm getting taxed more and more, while fulfilling the American Dream.

OBAMA: Well, here's the way of thinking about it. How long have you been a plumber? How long have you been working?

WURZELBACHER: Fifteen years.

OBAMA: OK. So, over the last 15 years, when you weren't making $250,000, you would have been getting a tax cut from me. So, you'd actually have more money, which means you would have saved more, which means that you would have gotten to the point where you could build your small business quicker than under the current tax plan.

So, what I'm doing is-you know, put yourself back 10 years ago when you were only making whatever -- $60,000 or $70,000. Under my tax plan, you'd be spending lower taxes, which means that you would have saved and gotten to the point where you are faster. Now, look, nobody likes high taxes, right? Of course not.

But what's happened is that we end up-we've cut taxes a lot for folks like me who make a lot more than $250,000. We haven't given a break to folk who make less, and, as a consequence, the average wage in income for just ordinary folks, the vast majority of Americans, has actually gone down over the last eight years.

So, all I want to do is-I've got a tax cut. The only thing that changes is, I'm going to cut taxes a little bit who are most in need, and for the 5 percent of the folks who are doing very well, even though they've been working hard-and I understand that, I appreciate that-I just want to make sure that they are paying a little bit more in order to pay for those other tax cuts.

Now, I respect your disagreement, but I just want you to be clear. It's not that I want to punish your success. I just want to make sure that everybody who is behind you, that they've got a chance at success, too.

Because my attitude is that, if the economy is good for folks from the bottom up, it's going to be good for everybody. If you've got a plumbing business, you're going to be better off if you've got a whole bunch of customers who can afford to hire you. And right now, everybody is so pinched that business is bad for everybody. And I think when you spread the wealth around, it's good for everybody.

But, listen, I respect what you do and I respect your question. And, you know, even if I don't get your vote, I'm still going to be working hard on your behalf because I want to make sure-small businesses are what create jobs in this country and I want to encourage it. All right.

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: One other thing I didn't mention. For small business people, I'm going to eliminate the capital gains tax. So, what it means is, if your business succeeds, and let's say, you, you know, take it from a $250,000 business to $500,000 business, that capital gains that you get, we're not going to tax you on it because I want you to grow more. So, you're actually going-you may end up-I'd have to look at your particular business, but you might end up paying lower taxes under my plan and my approach than under John McCain's plan. I can't guarantee that because I'd have to take a look at your business.

WURZELBACHER: OK. I understand that.

OBAMA: All right. Thanks for the question, though.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: In other words, when the Bush tax cuts expire, Obama wants new tax cuts for people making less $250,000, McCain wants to renew those old cuts for those making more. Both spread the wealth, only ones spread it to the wealthy.

Like Neiman Marcus. It's embarrassing and stupid that when contrasted to Senator McCain's portrayal of Senator Obama as a celebrity, a Paris Hilton, Governor Palin's $18,000 a week clothing budget says an awful lot about the abounding hypocrisy at the GOP ticket. Tonight's Campaign Comment.

And a fascinating interaction between Governor Palin and John McCain. What Chuck Todd described as "a tenseness" during their joint interview tonight with Brian Williams and Chuck. We have it next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN: As John McCain began to blame Sarah Palin for the unhappy October surprise for the Republican ticket, Chuck Todd was there as Brian Williams interviewed them both in Ohio. He said the chemistry between the running mates was as bad as if you had picked two people off the street at random and interviewed them together. What he saw, next here on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN: It was a nugget of actual news-Sarah Palin saying, if it would quite skeptics and reassure supporters, she'd favor releasing her medical records. But the real takeaway from the governor's joint interview with Senator McCain this afternoon in Ohio with our Brian Williams, the chilling impression of political director Chuck Todd, who observed what he called "a lack of chemistry" between the running mates.

Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN: It was as if they grabbed two people and said, here, sit next to each other, we're going to conduct an interview. According to Chuck, who went on to wonder, whether McCain is now blaming his V.P. pick for his ailing campaign. There was, as Chuck Todd concluded, a tenseness.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: Senator, I begin with your observation on the tarmac. You came in today, there's not one but two planes with your name on the side. You immediately started reminiscing about the depths of New Hampshire. It was you and your garment bag coming off a commercial flight. But here you are, you are down. You are down in money. How do you stay up?

MCCAIN: Down in money, down in the polls, we got them just where we want them.

(LAUGHTER)

WILLIAMS: What do you mean by that?

MCCAIN: I mean, that's when we do best, really, Brian. I've always done best when we run in some-a little bit behind and got to catch up. And that's somehow, I've been very blessed. We seem to catch fire. And lately, we have seen in the last several days or week, we've seen-ever since the debate-we've seen uptick and we got about three or four points to go and we can win this thing.

WILLIAMS: Let me ask you both about what must have been a hurtful Sunday for you, especially, you, Senator McCain-Colin Powell's endorsement of Barack Obama. And, governor, respectfully, the heart of his quote about Governor Palin, Senator McCain, "I don't believe she's ready to be president of the United States, which is the job of the vice president. And so, that raised some questions in my mind as to the judgment that Senator McCain made."

When you heard those words from a man you've known for a long time, what was your reaction-saying basically, we have little to judge these future leaders on except for the big decision of picking a running mate?

MCCAIN: I know that if General Powell had wanted to meet Governor Palin, we could have arranged that, easily, number one.

But, number two is, then, obviously, General Powell does not know Governor Palin's record. Reform. Governor, 24,000 employees, I believe, for the state of Alaska. Negotiated a $40 billion natural gas pipeline, and taking on the oil and gas interests.

Took on the governor of her own party who was an incumbent. Stood up against corruption. Cut taxes. Gave her constituents money back. Shares my world view. Has, frankly, in all due respect, a son with his life on the line right now in defense of freedom.

And that's not qualified? Tell me what is qualified. I am overjoyed to have a person who's a real reformer.

What Americans want right now more than anything else? They want us to reform the way we do business in Washington and they want our economy put back on track. Here's a proven record.

And so, all I can say is, I see all these attacks on Governor Palin. I don't live in a bubble. But there's people, obviously, or either not paying attention to, or don't care about the record of the most popular governor in the United States of America.

PALIN: And, look-let me interrupt for a second here, too. I'm not going to toot my own horn. But I do have more executive experience than Barack Obama even has, dealing with multibillion dollar budgets, and thousands of employees, in position as mayor, as a manager, as a regulator of oil and gas and as a governor.

But, let's not forget, also, in this context of one endorsement, Colin Powell's-that you've received the endorsement of, at least, four former secretaries of states and hundreds.

MCCAIN: Five secretaries-former secretaries of state.

PALIN: Five-and hundreds of retired top U.S. military brass that see, also, in John McCain, the ability to win the war and to keep your nation safe.

And, of course, those are in more economic-minded also who are endorsing John McCain because they know, too, that he will get our economy back on track. He will reduce taxes on our small business and our families so that we can keep more of what we produce and earn, so that we can hire more people as business owners. That's how jobs are created. That's how the economy gets rolling.

And he's got that in him. He's got that in his plan. And that's recognized. I'm appreciative of all the endorsements that you have received.

MCCAIN: Henry Kissinger, George Schultz, Jim Baker, Larry Eagleburger, and Al Haig. All of those have been strong supporters of mine. Plus, 200 or more retired generals and admirals, I'm more proud of that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: I've never seen the boys fight harder during a football game. In fact, with that flag machine, I've never seen the boys, period.

In Best Persons, Billo the Clown celebrates a new contract extension and new place in the standings that is not first.

But first, the most outrageous or untrue things said by or on behalf of the Republican presidential nominee-McCain in the Membrane.

Number three: Dressing up the Palins. Campaign senior advisor Nicolle Wallace with her reaction today, quote, "There are far more important things than skirts and shoes before the American people make a decision about who to support for president in 13 days. Anything that was purchased for convention events will be donated to charity," for convention events. So, everything bought after Minnesota like the $50,000 at Saks Fifth Avenue, she gets to keep?

Number two: Why haven't we heard about the plane she sold, lately? NBC News has obtained official Alaska records indicating that after Governor Palin failed to sell her predecessor's gubernatorial plane on eBay and instead had an aviation broker sell it at a loss, she continued to fly around the state just as her predecessor had, using instead the state police King Air turboprop usually reserved for police-related and search and rescue missions. Governor Palin used it so often, her trips accounted for nearly 20 percent of it's time in the air.

It makes you wonder if they had to skip those search and rescues.

And number one: Opps-just say "opps" and get out. We'll play Senator McCain's misfortune today live on national TV from Manchester, New Hampshire in a moment. It's bleeped, but you still may need to get the kids out of the room.

And I presented in this context, 27 years ago, I did this on network radio. I try to read a 20-second kicker in 15 seconds, and gee (INAUDIBLE), guess what? The phrase "The Mecca of quail club hunting got all kind of smashed together, particularly the word "club" and the word "hunt." So, with no little amount of empathy, here's the senator.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: Rates were cut in the Clinton years, revenue went up. Rates were cut in (BLEEP) in the Bush years, revenue went up.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: I'm just thinking. Maybe that was insufficient fish bleepage. I think we should play that again with beefed up bleeps.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: Rates were cut in the Clinton years, revenue went up. Rates were cut (BLEEP) years, revenue went up.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN: Bests in a moment and 40 million dollars for Bill-O, plus third place. First, 70 years ago today, October 22nd, 1938, in a small laboratory in Astoria Queens, New York, Chester Carlson made the first successful Xerox copy. He duplicated hi simple message, 10-22-28 Astora. Then he went to make a second copy and the thing jammed. And they're still waiting for the repair guy. Let's play Oddball.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: We begin at the Jack Chase Football Stadium in Aimes, Iowa, where through a dense fog coming out of the tunnel, let's hear it for you Iowa State Cyclones. And it is going to be a long day, folks. This is from Saturday. Defensive end Travis Ferguson was the player who was tackled by the goal post. But it wasn't all bad news, Cyclone fans. Ow, Ow, Ow. Iowa State did score a touchdown against Nebraska and lost, 35-7. Ow, Ow, Ow.

To Oddball's mug shot hall of fame and a backlog of inductees tonight, like this usual suspect, Michelle Allen of Middletown, Ohio, charged last month with disorderly conduct for urinating on a neighbor's front porch while displaying utter disregard for the law.

In the ironic t-shirt wing, young Greg Giggs (ph) of Ft. Mitchell, Ohio, busted for trafficking drugs while wearing an "it's not illegal unless you get caught" shirt.

Finally, The busted beauty queen. This is 18 year old Lindsay Evans, your 2008 Miss teen Louisiana, who dined and dashed on a 46 dollar check at a cafe, but was tracked down after police found her driver's license and a bag of weed inside the pocket book she left at the table. Miss Evans is now a former Miss Teen Louisiana. She'll be back. She'll be eligible to run for vice president in 2024.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: Why would chatters and an al Qaeda website be backing John McCain for president? It is the economy, stupid. Though the campaign gets props for trying to keep sales strong at Neiman Marcus and Saks. Tonight's campaign comment on the hypocrisy of calling the other guys the elitists and the Paris Hiltons. These stories ahead, but first time for COUNTDOWN's top three best persons in the world.

Number three, best dumb criminal, western conference, Scott Boe of San Francisco, arrested for breaking into a home there. He had burglars tools, but had not taken anything. So he explained he had only broken in so he could charge his cell phone.

Number two, best dumb criminal, eastern conference, Brian Perez of Washington, D.C., who Tried to hold up a purported brothel in that city. Police say the machete wielding thief left some incriminating evidence behind, his right thumb. One of the victims took the machete away from Mr. Perez and de-thumbed him.

Number one, best TV news, Bill-O the clown, revealing this morning that despite rumors of his possible retirement, he has instead signed a new four year deal to continue with Fox Noise. And in the spirit of helping Bill celebrate and plan ahead, this afternoon the ratings came out for last night, and COUNTDOWN beat Bill-O in the coveted 25 to 55 viewers group, 935,000 to 742,000. We were the highest rated show in cable news.

Funny thing, Rachel beat him too, 867,000 to 742,000. She was the second highest rated show in cable news. And our replay beat his replay by about six percent. So happy new contract, Bill. We hope you enjoy every minute of those four years in third place.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN: Although al Qaeda's ability to affect the outcome of a U.S. presidential election may have changed, al Qaeda's rationale on the kind of American president it wants has not. A bellicose American president, according to their rationale would be better for the recruitment of jihadists and more likely to achieve al Qaeda's goal of draining American resources, economic and otherwise. In our third story on the COUNTDOWN, an al Qaeda connected website now showing support for a McCain presidency.

According to the "Washington Post" on the extremist website al Hezba, in a commentary posted on Monday, quoting, "this requires the presence of an impetuous American leader such as McCain, who pledged to continue the Iraq war until the last American soldier. Then al Qaeda will have to support McCain in the coming elections so he continues the failing march of his predecessor, Bush."

The posting further suggested that a terrorist strike would sway American voters toward McCain and that a McCain presidency would ultimately achieve al Qaeda's goal of, quote, exhausting America. Indeed, among extremist Islamist webpages, a consensus of sorts has emerged, according to a senior analyst for the Site Intelligence Group, which monitors such sites, quoting, "the idea in the jihadist forums is that McCain would be a faithful son of Bush." That's Adam Raisman. "Someone they see as a jingoist and a war hawk."

In a conference call today the McCain campaign indicated that terrorists actually wanted Senator Obama to win, that al Qaeda supporters know that a endorsement of McCain is a kiss of death and would hurt his chances. But the campaign contradicted itself to some degree on that point by claiming that a Hamas adviser has recently praised Senator Obama.

Let's turn now to the distinguished counter-terrorism adviser to presidents of both parties, also the author, of course, of "Your Government Failed You," Richard Clarke. Thanks for your time tonight, sir.

RICHARD CLARKE, AUTHOR, "YOUR GOVERNMENT FAILED YOU": Always good to be with you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Before we get to al Qaeda and the election and that relationship, any real doubt about the central premise here that the war in Iraq has been good for al Qaeda recruitment?

CLARKE: No, I think terrorist outside of government, inside the CIA, terrorism analysts in European government, there's a great consensus that the U.S. occupation of Iraq is the best thing that ever happened to al Qaeda, in terms of recruitment and fund raising.

OLBERMANN: If this is-the goal here, ultimately, is to exhaust America, as has been phrased in many different ways, many different times, that suggests a war of attrition. And a war of attrition is served best how?

CLARKE: Well, from al Qaeda's perspective, it would be best if the United States stayed in Iraq for a long time, as well as in Afghanistan, with large numbers of troops and large bills to be paid by the American tax payer.

OLBERMANN: The idea of influencing the election; the 2004 bin Laden videotape arrived four days before the vote. How much is the dynamic changed this time, in terms to have impact of something like that in 2008?

CLARKE: Well, we don't know, obviously. There's been a study by the University of California suggesting, according to polling data, that it would-it might back fire and help Obama. We do know that John Kerry really believes, and CIA analysts agree with him, that the purpose of the al Qaeda video, the bin Laden Halloween appearance, 2004, was to help President Bush by saying or implying that bin Laden actually liked Kerry.

Bin Laden and al Qaeda are sophisticated people. They know what the effect in the U.S. populous would be if they tilted towards Kerry. It would obviously help Bush. I think that actually happened. The extent to which it mattered, I don't know. Would it happen again this year? I doubt it. I think things have changed. I think the voters are more sophisticated than they were in 2004. You can't keep fooling them this way.

But the bottom line is that the occupation of Iraq, which McCain seems to favor going on forever, helps al Qaeda.

OLBERMANN: Does al Qaeda know this changing paradigm, in terms of our elections? We've spoken before about how sharp they are about analyzing political trends in this country. Is the awareness there that the country is focused on ten issues ahead of international terrorism and specifically, their brand of it?

CLARKE: Well, we know that bin Laden personally looks at opinion polls, Western opinion polls and watches U.S. TV on satellite. So, yes, he could be sophisticated enough to figure that out. But, of course, there's a difference between just releasing another videotape, as he did four years ago, and staging an attack. Staging an attack could halt-vault terrorism up from issue ten to issue number one.

OLBERMANN: If that al Qaeda linked website that was referenced in the "Washington Post" piece supported, openly supported Senator Obama, we can easily imagine how the McCain camp would try to use it. Thus, this sort of flummoxed response from the McCain campaign, do we suspect merging American politics and international terrorism, that this development was something of a surprise to the McCain campaign?

CLARKE: Well, I think it probably confused them. They've accused Senator Obama of being a terrorist two weeks ago, and then this week they're accusing him of being a socialist. Next week, it will be a space alien. I think it's a confused campaign at this point.

OLBERMANN: And where is it? Obviously, there are people who are working on this 24 hours a day. But in these times, we don't tend to hear about it. Where are we in terms of al Qaeda and our relationship to it at this moment? Can you give us a minute-summary of where we stand? It seems like the entire issue has been forced off every front page and every interior page.

CLARKE: The last National Intelligence Estimate and the testimony before the Congress and the press by the CIA director says that al Qaeda is stronger now than it has been since any time since, perhaps, 2002. It's been able to reconstitute itself in Pakistan, and is participating with the Taliban in killing American troops in Afghanistan. It is also training European-looking people to go, perhaps, to Europe or perhaps to the United States to conduct attacks. They don't like Arab. They may have European passports.

That's a source of real concern among non-partisan analysts I know in the CIA.

OLBERMANN: The author of "Your Government Failed You," Richard Clarke, as I said, always a pleasure, sir. Thanks for your time tonight.

CLARKE: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Who knew that the derisive nickname had a basis in fact, Caribou Barbie and the 150,000 dollars in accessories. Tonight's campaign comment.

And as a Minnesota Congresswoman scrambles to dig her way out from the mountain she dropped on her own head, the Republican party has reportedly cut off her ad money. Worst persons next on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN: How are we supposed to take a campaign seriously if it brands the other guy elitist and a virtual Paris Hilton, when it turns out it spent 150,000 dollars to dress up its own vice presidential candidate? The campaign comment; hypocrisy can be hilarious, next. First, time for COUNTDOWN's number two story, tonight's worst persons in the world.

The bronze to Rudy Giuliani, on with comedian Rush Limbaugh, who asks, "do you realize how many times Bill Clinton was tested by al Qaeda? Every time Clinton was tested he failed and that's why they tested Bush on 9/11." To which Giuliani replies, "yes," and joins in the endless desperate attempt by the lunatic far right to blame President Clinton for 9/11. Which is sadder even than usual for the former mayor of New York City, because in October of 2006 he said that blaming Clinton for 9/11 was, quote, "just wrong for many, many reasons, not the least of which is I don't think he deserves it." You sold your soul.

Our runner up, those in charge of the Nike Women's Marathon in San Francisco. On Sunday, the race featured one of the most amazing things to happen in women's sports, an unheralded fifth grade teacher from New York named Arian O'Connell (ph) ran the race in two hours, 55 minutes and 11 seconds. Miss O'Connell not only beat the entire field of 20,000 marathoners, but she beat the second-fastest time by 11 minutes. And somebody else was declared the winner because Arian O'Connell was not among the pre-determined elite competitors. Only an elite competitor was permitted to win, even though she beat them all by 11 minutes.

Today, after protests, the race announced O'Connell would be recognized as a winner. She'll get the full prize money and they were now going to eliminate that elite competition idea.

And our winner, Minnesota Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann, now saying she regrets going on HARDBALL and suggesting there were, quote, anti-Americans, unquote, members of the House and Senate and that Barack Obama might be one of them, but it's Chris' fault. "Chris Matthews laid a trap and I walked into it." She said she had never seen the show before. She also claimed she did not, quote, call for an investigation of members of Congress for their pro-American or anti-American views, even though she insisted the media should conduct that kind of-the word she used was expose. That would make her a liar.

She has bigger problems though. Not only has her Democratic opponent, Elwyn Tinklenburg (ph), raised a about a million since her remarks, but the national party has put a million more into his campaign, and now "Huffington Post" now quotes two sources in the ad agency business in Minnesota who say the National Republican Party has pulled the ads it was buying for Bachmann. Bye.

Michelle Bachmann, as of today a likely lame duck Congresswoman and today's worst person in the world!

(COMMERCIAL BREAK

OLBERMANN: Finally, as promised, tonight's Campaign Comment and the issue of 150,000 dollars being spent by the Republican National Committee so it could play vice presidential Color-Forms with Sarah Palin and her family is almost literally window-dressing.

But even this saga of the Would-Be Empress's New Clothes does emphasize a point about the campaign worthy of deep consideration. One hundred and fifty thousand dollars in clothes, Sen. McCain? To make what might as well be an actress playing your running mate look more like a vice president, Sen. McCain?

Most of the money spent at Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman-Marcus, the latter also known to smart shoppers as Needless-Markup, Sen. McCain? While the economy, in your famous imagery to David Letterman, is cratering, Sen. McCain?

While your campaign has tried to paint Sen. Obama as elitist, Sen.

McCain? A "Celebrity," Sen. McCain? Here's your running mate, Senator. Like I said, Color-Forms. This is the hockey mom, connected to the small towns where the Real Americans are. Strugglin' and scrimpin' on what's workin' out to be a clothin' budget of 18,000 dollars a week.

And here, Sen. McCain, is a picture taken by a photographer from "Time Magazine" in March of your opponent, the elitist celebrity. Nice shoes.

This is the guy you tried to paint as the Paris Hilton of this campaign. Senator, you picked a Paris Hilton to be your running mate and you brought this topic up.

How do you get around, while carrying the weight of this awful, cheesy, see-through, politically pointless, hypocrisy? We see it constantly. Joe the Plumber. Bad Barack Obama, ruining Joe's privacy, when it was Sen. McCain who invoked this poor guy 21 times in the debates and every day since.

Bad media, prying into Joe's story, when the whole thing, from his income to his professional licensing, was a complete fabrication. This campaign will not, and apparently cannot, recognize that the American public has completely seen through it. The image has been carefully stitched together, one hypocritical kvetch at a time.

If John McCain complains about Sen. Obama, you can count on it, whatever it is; John McCain or Sarah Palin or both have done it more, or earlier, or worse, or more obviously.

Senator, baseball? You went after Obama because he first said he was always a White Sox fan, but leaning towards the Phillies in the World Series, but then went and made an appearance with the team the Phillies are playing, the Tampa Bay Rays?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: I heard, maybe you did too, that Sen. Obama was showing some love to the Devil Rays down in Tampa Bay yesterday. Now, I'm not dumb enough to get mixed up in a World Series between swing states, but I think I may have detected a little pattern with Sen. Obama. It's pretty simple really. When he's campaigning in Philadelphia, he roots for the Phillies, and when he's campaigning in Tampa Bay, he shows love to the Rays. It's kind of like the way he campaigns on tax cuts, but then votes for tax increases after he's elected. Or the way he says he backs the middle class and then goes and attacks Joe the Plumber after Sen. Obama's asked a tough question.

(END VIDEO CLIP

OLBERMANN: Aw, Senator, come on. The day after Tampa Bay eliminated Obama's White Sox in the playoffs and moved on to face the Boston Red Sox for a berth in the World Series, there was Gov. Palin in Jacksonville:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN: How about those Tampa Bay Rays? You know what that tells me? It tells me that the people in this area know a little something about turning an underdog into a victor.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: And then eight days later, Senator, with the Rays leading the Red Sox two games to one in their playoff series, your running mate is now in New Hampshire where she says:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN: Red Sox fans know how to turn an underdog into a victor.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: Senator, baseball affections, hockey moms and unlicensed plumbers, Neiman-Marcus wardrobes and Color-Forms, and re-soled shoes, they're diversions, and stupid ones, "chaff," as the sub-mariners call it. But they've become the essence of your campaign. Even though everything you accuse your opponent of you've done worse.

And there is one last point to make about all this. Since September 18th, 1996, presidential candidates of both parties have had to beware the "Bob Dole moment." That was the day the then Republican nominee, facing a ballooning lead for the Democrat, stood at a school in the West Hills section of Los Angeles, and the day after an outstanding performance from LA pitcher Hideo Nomo made a fateful baseball analogy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOB DOLE, FMR. US SENATOR: I'm going to be like Nomo. I am going to pitch a no-hitter from now until November 5th. The Brooklyn Dodgers had a no-hitter last night, and I'm going to follow what Nomo did.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: Dole, of course, meant the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers had moved out of Brooklyn in 1957. Sen. Dole had gotten the name of the team wrong and its city by nearly 40 years.

A simple slip, invoking an image of timeless cluelessness. And since that day no presidential hopeful has ever ad libbed, certainly not about sports, without some fear in the gut of reprising a "Bob Dole moment."

Who knew John McCain's would be so similar. No, not the "I couldn't agree more" speech to that confused Pennsylvania crowd. That was kind of like a "Bob Dole moment."

But let's go back to Sen. McCain about the World Series which began tonight.

This is an actual "Bob Dole moment:"

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: I heard, maybe you did too, that Sen. Obama was showing some love to the Devil Rays down in Tampa Bay yesterday.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN: Tampa Bay Rays, Senator. They exorcised the "Devil" from their name last year.

After ten consecutive seasons in last place, they changed their name from "Devil Rays" to just "Rays" and immediately went to the World Series. It was in all the papers, Senator. To say nothing of all the sermons. I bet even Joe the plumber knew that.

That's COUNTDOWN for this the 2,002nd day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq. I'm Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

END

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